After the election: Time for unionists to look outwards?

Interesting thoughts from Arthur Aughey on Open Unionism. There are few safe conclusions to draw from the Westminster election result, save that Peter Robinson was given the bum’s rush by a unionist electorate which is considerably more sensitive to the personal conduct of its leaders affairs, than nationalism. And the Michelle Gildnernew victory which was considered by many nationalists in FST (and far beyond) a botched attempt at a sectarian stitch up. Oh, and there was that little matter of the TUV’s routing by the DUP.

So in rough summation Aughey argues that that the fetishisation of ‘unity’ amongst unionists is distracting them from building an attractive political option for the Northern Irish electorate:

What is needed is a new generation of politicians with new ideas who can reflect the diverse currents within that electorate. I would suggest that a single unionist party is unlikely to encourage that. The unionist voter is often considered primitive in outlook, fearful and anxious. However, as Anthony McIntyre wrote in the aftermath of the recent General Election, unionist voters had shown the capacity to think and to act on that thinking, especially in East Belfast:

‘Unionism, long considered obstinate and incapable of change, usually fared poorly in the eyes of the international community compared to their nationalist opponents. Now a considerable swathe of unionist opinion has demonstrated its lack of regard for the less that wholesome behaviour of its key leader.’

He concluded that ‘unionism has been considerably strengthened by seizing the moral high ground. Coupled with the Tories being back in office the future might not look orange but it certainly looks bright for the union’.

He concludes:

It is not unionism which is under threat, it is the republican project which has imploded. I think mobilising for unionist unity is to play yesterday’s game and waste political energy that could be better expended elsewhere in these favourable political circumstances. Blogs like Open Unionism show that there is a fund of political intelligence to be tapped and Open Unionism should be the motif of contemporary political debate. It is time for unionists to look outwards rather than to retreat within.

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  • Framer

    I don’t think the Republican project has imploded (as Arthur Aughey writes) in the sense that it has gone away. Remember it is armed Hibernianism not Wolfe Tone idealism.

    While there are Unionists there will be Republicans.

    That movement is now in political mode with its major aims being to maintain a high level of nationalist triumphalism and sectarianism while maximising unionist demoralisation electorally, demographically and through trickery.

    It will inevitably return to militarism as and when circumstances change, Perhaps when there appears to be a Catholic majority and no united Ireland or when our economic circumstances return to something approaching impoverishment.

    As to a single Unionist party or a link-up between the UUP and DUP, with PR for the Assembly and councils there is no great problem of vote splitting so, until possible AV, what is needed is a structured umbrella convention for Westminster elections which can include existing parties and people belonging to none.

    This may not be able to happen while the DUP’s dynasts and its cultists are dominant. The DUP has the MPs but not the membership that the UUP has.

    It is true, as FST indicates, that the Protestant population is not energised ethnically as it was during the Troubles. So any unionist umbrella will not appeal to many moderates but they cannot be organised politically. Instead they demoralise by endless carping but a refusal to do anything positive.

    Alliance is a home for them but it has little Catholic voter appeal. Its discreet LibDem connection, ironically now in government, is what the UUP should have followed vis a vis the Tories instead of the UCUNF albatross.

  • John Joe

    And if the unionist consituency is considerably more sensitive to the behaviour of its leaders, I can only suggest that that is contradicted by the election of IP Jr in North Antrim?
    Taken as a whole, the Assembly election next year will be a more secure barometer of where parties and their agendas currently stand. On the face of the Westminister results, it is the pre-amble, as much as the actual results that provided the food for thought.
    None of the following suggest that unionism has moved forward: the shambles in choreograghy of the Hatfield House and Orange Order talks, the apparent rejection of potential Catholic Tory candidates by UCUNF and the ensuing public debates over FST and the failure to agree a unity candidate for S Belfast.
    Coupled with the subsequent failure of the policy in FST and the loss of East Belfast to Alliance, it gets progressively more difficult to source crumbs of comfort. Perhaps most worryingly outcome for unionism, post-election, was the holding up of Ulster-based unionists as pariahs of sorts by various figures (e.g. Hague) that suggests that the lesson of the UCUNF project may be that Ulster unionists of various shades are simply not taken seriously in London.
    But of course, none of that matters if you say republicanism is imploding.

  • Neil

    Peter Robinson was given the bum’s rush by a unionist electorate which is considerably more sensitive to the personal conduct of its leaders affairs, than nationalism.

    Hmmm. Are you comparing Robbos use of his office to further his family’s empire with a history of sexual abuse in the Adam’s household? Because as a working class voter, I can see how lining your pockets to the 500k a year mark in expenses, five pound land deals, double jobbing, not declaring interests etc. might convince me not to vote.

    On the flip side I fail to see how a man finding out his brother was an alleged paedophile, reporting that to the RUC, the RUC not arresting anyone, or in fact acting in any way other than to try to enrol the victim as an informer, how does this damage Adams? Why would I not vote for him?

    The reason it damaged Robbo, and I heard this from a couple of EB voters, is that they are working class, struggling to make ends meet, and resent Robinson having managed to ‘earn’ through the public purse vast sums of money.

    The primary difference IMO between the two: Adams problems were personal family ones. Robinson’s problems were largely based around people’s perception of his bank account and the impact of his job on same. No one I’ve spoken to, and I’ve spoken to a few, took their vote from Robbo because of his wifes infidelity. All of them did so because of the perception that Robbo used his position to improve his lot.

    Adam’s problems: personal. Robbo’s problems: professional. The electorate reject Robbo due to his problems being work related. Adam’s don’t due to his problems being of a personal family nature. But keep it up mick. It’s very endearing to watch someone attack a man for having an alleged sex abuser as a brother/father.

  • Drumlin Rock

    “What is needed is a new generation of politicians with new ideas who can reflect the diverse currents within that electorate.”

    Did Arthur not actually see the election results?

    The over riding factor was the rejection of new faces and an acceptance of the old well known ones, even in the East Belfast case it wasnt a case of embracing Alliance, it was a case of picking the next highest profile candidate to replace a scandalised sitting MP. All those elected were either sitting MPs or high profile MLAs.

  • madraj55

    MF Unionism can be under threat even as the Union itself is less so. Jim Molyneaux pointed out at the time of the ceasefires in ’94, that this was the most destabilising event for the Union, but he got that wrong. it was the unionist establishment which was destabilised by the change in Republican tactic from military to political.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s all rather paradoxical. Here’s Lindy McDowell from last week:

    A new leadership has at least a chance. But it’s important that it’s a complete change. Not the removal of just one man. There were others around Sir Reg ( a decent, likeable man) who also share the blame for what went wrong.

    Back at DUP HQ the picture is maybe less challenging. But party chiefs there, too, would be foolish to ignore the warning shot fired in their direction via the defeat of Peter Robinson. It says something about unionist distaste for sleaze and scandal that the man who held the seat for 31 years was left so high and dry.

    The party has since rallied around him. But bosses would be kidding themselves if they believed their leader has not been holed below the waterline. And is not a liability. They have at least a bit of time to let him go with some dignity.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Another predictable anti-SF thread cobbled together based on the views of a hoplesly naive Arthur with his “Unionism must stop playing up to the stereotypes of its opponents and begin to provide the kind of leadership that will allow Northern Ireland to prosper within the United Kingdom” which is exactly the type of empty, idealistic jibber-jabber that saw UCUNF implode and then our old favourite the boul Ant with his cracking analysis – that Unionism has never had it so good.

    Perhaps someone needs to tell Nationalist-Republican voters to pay no attention to the recent election results particulalry in FST, NB and SB and listen instead to the wise words of of these 2 political opponents that there really is a crisis after all.

    …and leaving aside the actual facts of the situation, the other problem for the Arthur and Ant double act is that, yes, they would say that wouldnt they.

    In relation to “which is considerably more sensitive to the personal conduct of its leaders affairs, than nationalism”, or perhaps the Nationalist electorate have weighed up the facts carefully in spite of the massive get Gerry propaganda, in which Pete B. played such a prominent part here on Slugger and decided they would go with their own judgement.

    It has been a tough election for some.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy, there is one line in there to do with SF, the rest is about unionism.

  • Mick Fealty

    YOu are dead right on EB there Neil. No question. Fourth highest rise in unemployment according to the latests statistics meant even though, like Adams, no one has proven he had broken the law, the answer to any question on the doorstep could not be answered by Robinson or his canvassers.

    The answer they got was a rather blunt: we like your party, but we don’t like you.

    As for the comparison with Adams, I am not trying to create a valency between the two situations. They are completely different, and again there is no evidence of law breaking that we know of.

    What I am trying to get at is the unionist electorate have given their high heid yins a good kickin without worrying a bout where it leaves them viz a viz Sinn Fein and Irish Republicanism.

    I would provisionally conclude that Unionist voters are a good deal less paranoid about Martin McGuinness as First Minister than the DUP calculated they would be when they agree to the rule change at St Andrews.

    In effect they have given their blessing to the new dispensation and told the DUP the job is theirs so long as they stop messing about with sectarian chicanery.

    That appears to me to be the import of Aughey’s argument that unionism stand for something more than the current limited ‘we’re not themuns’ offering.

  • Mick Fealty

    Boys and girls, if you want your own avatar, it explains how here: As you’ll see from the thread, it may take a while before it kicks in on your posts on Slugger. But it will back fill that currently empty space beside your name.

  • John East Belfast

    I think when unionists think about what happened to Robinson v what happened to Adams – and the implications for the state of mind of West Belfast v East Belfast Electorate – they are not comparing Wife Infidelity/Alleged financial impropriety with what did or did not happen about allegations against a brother.

    What they are thinking about, having read a recent book, is the sheer horror of that poor women Jean McConville’s last moments on this earth when she was brought to her probably already dug grave and murdered.

    They would then be thinking did anyone have a case to answer and if so how can they be made an example off.

    Obviously West Belfast did not feel there was a case to answer or if there was it wasnt something to bother yourself about.

    As for what happened in East Belfast being some drammatic change in unionist thinking that ignores the constituency’s past form. Oliver Napier got 15,000 votes there in 1979 and in the fifties and sixties the Ulster Unionists often had a very close run against th NI Labour Party.

    East Belfast and North Down are a couple of unionist constituencies about which it would be unwise to draw any long term trends in unionism from.

  • Seimi

    ‘East Belfast and North Down are a couple of unionist constituencies about which it would be unwise to draw any long term trends in unionism from.’ JEB

    31 years with the same MP ISN’T a long term trend!?

  • “East Belfast and North Down are a couple of unionist constituencies about which it would be unwise to draw any long term trends in unionism from.”

    I agree John, the dramatic fall in people voting for the pro-Union parties vis-a-vis 2005 is the lesson from this election, not 2 personality-driven victories.

    Madraj55 seems to be the exception here in that he has actually got Arthur Aughey’s main point, political Unionism is in a mess whilst our link with the rest of the United Kingdom carries on regardless. Imagine an Alex Salmond being presented with the closeness of the contest here between nationalism and unionism, he’d have declared UDI by now. Yet here we’ve got no calls for border polls from SF or the SDLP, no final push is under way for the 32 cty state Once you admitted to yourself the reason why not, then you’ve grasped Arthur’s point.

    At this present moment the Union remains strong largely despite not because of political Unionism’s efforts. The strength of that Union should be giving us the self-confidence to remedy that contradiction.

  • Granni Trixie

    Yes,what has FJH done now?

  • Mick Fealty

    I put it in the ‘snarky’ bin…

  • Greenflag


    That’s right it isn’t . Here’s the unofficial guide to the concepts of short , medium and long term in Northern Ireland politics and constitutional hassle .

    Short term in NI politics = 10 to 50 years

    Medium term in NI politics = 51 to 150 years

    Long term in NI politics = 151 to 400 years

    Other time terms used in NI discourse

    At the end of the day = The Second Coming of Jehovah

    The here and now = Any possible time between now now and about 10 years from now now .

  • SammyMehaffey

    I think there is only one place for unionism to go and that is for Conservatives; Labour; Lib Dems; FF; FG to organise here. DUP and SF can still operate and time will tell when the dinasors are extinct. It might take a while but it would happen.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Seems a rather odd decision.
    Can I perhaps put a less “snarky” version that doesnt use words like “Bloggerati”?
    The substance was that the debate itself….the “commentary” is the story……not individual opinions.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    “how does this damage Adams? Why would I not vote for him?”

    Never mind all the child-abuse allegations, most of the UK electorate would not vote for someone who was involved in the leadership of a ruthless terrorist organisation. Nationalists seem to think that because Adams has now switched to the ballot-box side of the “armalite and ballot box strategy” that it is somehow morally acceptable to still vote for such a man with such a bloody past. The same would not be true for the overwhelming majority of the UK electorate, and certainly not for the NI Unionist electorate.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    agreed. UUP should strengthen the Conservative link and take the moral high ground by encouraging Labour to absorb any of their members who don’t see themselves as Conservatives.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nothing to do with that FJH. You can use the words bloggerati and overclass to your heart’s content. But you were being snarky, and off topic. That’s all.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    ahhhhhhhh gotcha. So the bit where I said that opinions on the future of unionism are extremely frequent was a bit snarky?

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes. Now can you say something on topic, or let those who want to get on with talking it through get on with it?

  • yellowbird

    “At this present moment the Union remains strong largely despite not because of political Unionism’s efforts. The strength of that Union should be giving us the self-confidence to remedy that contradiction.”

    Are you saying that unionists need to rebuild unionism to counter a non-existent threat?

    Surely what East Belfast and North Down show is that when people don’t feel that they’re some sort of existential threat they choose to be a bit more liberal. Perhaps more people see the potential upside of a normal free-exchanging society and fewer see the need to forgo that upside for the comfort of choosing a community-defender as their champion. Why would increasing normality serve anyone selling tribal insurance that no-one thinks they need any more?

  • Seimi

    Does that mean, based on your timetable, that TUV should’nt use the term ‘Traditional’ until they have been around for another few decades? 🙂

  • Granni Trixie

    Mick: whilst I can see the case for staying on topic, surely you recognise that going off topic is way us ‘underclasses’ try to exercise some control also (good in my book).
    (oops this off topic too)?.

    To be serious, I personally am amazed that people on Slugger who advocate eg ‘legitimate target’ are not put in the sin bin but going off topic is? Ridiculous.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Or calling people Frs or Wrs? …… most recent protestation was not even acknowledged. Odd very odd.

  • Neil

    most of the UK electorate would not vote for someone who was involved in the leadership of a ruthless terrorist organisation.

    Oh but I beg to differ. Every single voter in the UK electorate votes for terrorists. It may not suit you to accept the fact that the UK government has employed terrorism here and elsewhere but that’s exactly what they did. Perhaps you’d care to think on what the Paras inflicted on the victims of Bloody Sunday, but I’m fairly sure they suffered terror at the hands of that arm of the British government.

    As did the victims of all other state collusion. We all know David Irvine’s remark regarding wall paper and certain Unionist politicians. And I’m sure we’ve all heard the recent ombudsman’s findings regarding the RUC in Mount Vernon.

    You think Adams has a bloody past and that Nationalists are morally wrong to vote for him yet the UK electorate has no blood on it’s hands, despite having used violence to conquer half the world, and has a large part to play in the 890,000 dead civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. You’re a total laugh.

    The British have caused untold misery the globe over, and used violence to control the natives in every country they were in, usually for the purposes of plunderung as much as possible. Enjoy living in the blinkered world you’re in, hankering back to the good ole days when they uppity fenians knew their place.

  • DC

    Rather than fend off the sleaze allegations Peter Robinson invited the media into his home and ended up letting off little shit bomb firecrackers – with the devasting effect of going off all over him.

    It was a complete disaster in terms of PR – a few of the worst performances ever by a first minister of NI Assembly – if G Adams had behaved like that in terms of sameness in tone and style he would have been toast too come election. Robbo was found to be Irascible and unapologetic when questioned.

    Arlene Foster should be considered for leader, a unifying person as she is more able I think to appeal to middle ground unionism than the blokish-blokes in the wider DUP leadership circle.

  • Mick Fealty


    I have said from the very outset, that Slugger is about engagement, not disengagement.. I would love to moderate/chair full time to keep the wkrs and fkrs out, but I cannot do that…

    I just need people to use a bit of nous… and work out which is which…

  • Greenflag

    Indeed . In fact they were way ahead of their time so far ahead in fact that they became extinct before they could raise themselves off their groundknuckles long enough to cut off their tails .

    Now had they called themselves the AUDDVONI (Not btw the Roman name for a Celtic tribe of the 1st century AD) but

    Antediluvian Unionist Disagrreable Dinosaur Voice of Northern Ireland ) they coulda been serious contenders for a much later extinction ;)?

  • Alias

    What was interesting about the result in EB is that the electorate chose a union-neutral candidate in preference to pro-union alternatives – and, of course, why the rejected the sitting MP. I think it shows that the unionist electorate does not make the mistake of viewing every election as a border poll, regarding the union as secure from within. However, while the union is now secure from within, it is not secure from without. What unionism needs to learn going forward is now to better manage its relationship with the rest of the UK. The terms by which it had sought to be included in the supporters groups for a coalition government, for example, showed that it is dangerously out of touch with English sentiment in regard to its financial support for the UK’s fringe nations and further showed that NI unionism does not actually believe in the core concept of the UK (parity of esteem within a UK of equals), hence it sought to be exempt from equal treatment in regard to shared hardship that is now needed to maintain their shared future. That was no way to win friends and influence the English. The leadership of NI unionism needs to play catch up with its electorate.

  • Greenflag

    ‘take the moral high ground ‘

    Mistake .They should wait and see how the Tory /Lib Dem capture of the ‘high ground’ works in practice after the cuts . Morality always takes a back seat when the Tories return to power after a long absence . Which of the new intake will fall prey to a moral mishap a la Profumo , Cecil Parkinson, Mellor or John Major or Jonathan Aitken or even Alan ( I should be horsewhipped for all my extra marital affairs )

    Some British politicians can however overcome ‘moral issues ‘ if they have the bottle /bottom .

    The best est example would be the
    Bottoms Up Scandal in the 80’s when Labour MP Allan Roberts visited Berlin’s Buddy Club. A witness claims Allan was approached by a man clad in an SS uniform. “Name,” he demanded. “Allan,” said Allan. “Nein,” said the German. “It is Rover.” He then attached a lead to Allen’s studded dog collar and whipped him before a baying crowd. The fallout: He denied ever being into bondage. He said he’d been drunk, fallen over and injured himself. Political suicide? No. Received a massive vote of confidence from his local party members. When he died in 1990, he had a spanking good majority of over 24,000.

    If Unionists are looking for ‘moral ‘ high ground the last place they need to go is to the Conservative Party .
    On the other hand they might consider asking both Reggie and Peter to eh bend overr for a spanking and both could even be returned with increased majorities ? Could it happen ? I guess not . Unionist voters are just not British enough eh :(?

  • Agree entirely O’Neill. I’d just been writing something on that very theme.

  • Eire32

    One man’s terrorists…

  • TheHorse

    The reality is Unionism, because of future demographics, has nowhere to go except to reach out to their Nationalist neighbours, Unionism as an ideology represents supression, discrimination, and unequality to Nationalism. Unionism had its chance to reach out at the Westminster elections to convice Nationalism that their best interests lay within their ideas but the link and advice they recieved and took from the orange order and those secret negoitations within Unionism and the Conservatives during the Hillsborough talks portrayed them as untrustworthy and unreformed. The PR department of Unionism needs to wake up and smell the coffee, unless they attract nationalism to their ideology they are slowly going to go the way of the dodo birds.

  • John East Belfast


    “Unionism as an ideology represents supression, discrimination, and unequality to Nationalism”

    Some comments on this site are better ignored and just moved on from but that one of yours is crying out to be described as Total Bollocks.

  • So what new ideas for growing the economy/private sector do our elected political representatives have, and if they have none, what do they see as their role in the big scheme of things, for it cannot be said to be one of leadership then?

    And what of someone who does have a new idea and would share it with the Stormont executive for private public funding, in much the same way as anything which they might propose themselves would be funded, but which a not bright enough/intellectually challenged and politically incorrect administration would choose not to entertain, for as is the case with any such novel venture, is the smart entrepreneur always having to battle with ignorance and arrogance in the offices of elected representatives of power and subjective decision.

    If they cannot lead, then surely they are there to server they who can and will, and as more of the same is not progress, it is fully to be expected that new ideas will be completely different from anything that has gone before and will require an open mind able to think further and deeper than may be normal/usual. Those intent on just ensuring that they retain their present perks and conditions may not be of the right stuff and frame of mind to be able to server their communities as would be needed and expected in what would then be considered Risk.

    And the situation is exacerbated by the fact that government makes it almost a default position not to reply to speculative private sector inquiries and proposals lest they are forced to reveal them publicly and reveal that they would know of them and thus have to justify their positions taken. Best then to ignore all such approaches and plead ignorance and no knowledge of contact being made……. which only works for a very short time, and thereafter does it and the evidence in a communication chain render them exposed as …. well, let us just say, compromised rather than too stupid for words or their exalted public positions.

    Northern Ireland doesn’t need such cuckoos in the nest at Stormont nor those who would have no idea about how to deliver novel industry and gainful employment. Sadly that would appear to be exactly what does squat in the big house on the hill, with them hoping that something will come along and make a proposal that they cannot refuse ……. which is somebody else leading and doing what most would imagine they imagine themselves to be doing, but aren’t.


  • alan56

    Who will be the new UUP leader. See BBC giving Basil McCrea a leg up!

  • TheHorse

    Where have you been for the last 40 years then john, in Unionisms never never land, do we have to go through the history of this state from its formation. Do we have to go into the history and ethos of the Orange Order. Oh thats right your the one that lashes out whenever you’re challenged like a true unionist caveman.

  • Brian Walker

    Bully Arthur, wish I had written that! If I may make excuses, I’ve been trying to find a structural method for defusing the FM time bomb, Arthur makes it simple and throws a bucket of cold water over it. I wonder what the new narrative might be, though?

  • Mick Fealty

    He’s the only one with a hat in the ring…

  • Mr Crumlin

    Mike Nesbitt – the man has no shame!

    I’m not a Unionist but I don’t pity the UUP with the calibre of would be leaders.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    I always find these attempts that the Sinn Feiners make to attempt to deflect their violence, in claiming that the deliberate campaign of violence and terror that their ilk carried out during their illegal ‘Armed Struggle’ was perfectly normal and exactly as everyone else was doing completely hilarious (well more sickening and saddening than ‘hilarious’).

    I also hate when anyone attempts to put words into my mouth, as in your reference to “uppity fenians”.

    Let me make myself clearer – no other UK MPs have the blood-stained hands as the likes of Adams & McGuinness. If this never crosses your mind when you ask yourself “why should I not vote for them?” then I think you have to ask yourself if you are indeed even human.

  • Mr Crumlin

    I think northern republicans and nationalists need to take a critical look at the type of Ireland we want to see in the 21st century. That could help unionism find its new way.

    What does it mean to be an Irishman in the north 2010? For some it is cultural, for others political and historical, while for a few I suppose it’s remains religious – for some its as simple as being born in Ireland. For me, it is a surreal mixture of all.

    I like the GAA but to be truthful I’d rather watch soccer. I’m proud of the Irish language but I have no more than ‘cupla focal’. I go to mass but am critical of the church hierarchy. I am proud of my country’s history but appreciate the role of the British in the world wars. I like Irish traditional music but love British rock and pop. I supported the IRA campaign but totally oppose those engaged in violence today. I remember the leaders of Easter 1916 and the hunger strikers but pay tribute to the dead of the World Wars. I am a walking contradiction.

    I look at unionism and I see a people who are similarly confused – a very Irish type of Britishness. They are loyal to the Crown but rarely their Government. But for the first time I saw the unionist electorate reject firebrand unionism, this time in the guise of TUV. Does unionism genuinely want to work with their fellow countrymen in the north? If so, then it is up to republicanism once again to show leadership and to travel the extra mile for the national good.

    As a northern republican I have increasingly believed that a genuine compromise and true partnership with unionism would lead to a re-evaluation of Irish unification. The Ireland envisaged by Tone, Pearse and Sands may not be achievable – certainly not in the short term. It is clear that the Irish people have agreed to unity by consent only. Northern Ireland is here for as long as unionists want it to be. That is the reality and no small militant factions are going to change that.

    However there is a real challenge in this for unionism. If they want Northern Ireland to remain, and to be stable as well as viable, then they have to take a similar critical look at themselves.

    They need to truly accept and acknowledge that many of their neighbours have no allegiance to the Crown or the UK. Only then will nationalists begin to see that the Northern Ireland of the future is for everyone.

    This can only be achieved by a brave and articulate unionist leadership. Unionism needs to realise that their old intransigence and no surrender attitude is a bigger threat to NI than any republican splinter group. For example the Orange Order’s insistance of walking in areas where they are not welcome creates a huge opportunity for violence more than any other issue – this has been shown through history.

    If unionist magnanimity could take hold then recognition of the Irish language would begin; there would be no more parades in nationalist areas; neutralising emblems would also play a huge role; enhanced cross border institutions would also be necessary. But the real challenge would be to cut ties with London – to be confident in their own strength and the safeguards of the Good Friday Agreement. Recognise that in London unionism is a very small fish in a very large pond and that the future of unionism is bedded in building partnerships in Belfast, not London.

  • Granni Trixie

    There are people working at getting Labour going in Ni, for a quite a long time and just when they seem on point of doing so it is so divisive… it doesnt happen. However presently I think that no “mainland” party quite suits NI,we are a law onto ourselves…infact I think of APNI is that kind of hybrid which suits many of us.

    What exquisite pain to have to chose between APNI and Labour. But not likely for foreseeable future.

  • Joe

    Unionism doesn’t work. The only people who don’t realise this are unionists.

  • union mack

    surely thats a contradiction, in that if it didnt work, it wouldnt exist?

  • alan56

    Not officially. Nesbitt might be a serious candidate

  • Alias

    “This can only be achieved by a brave and articulate unionist leadership. Unionism needs to realise that their old intransigence and no surrender attitude is a bigger threat to NI than any republican splinter group.”

    Which decade did you write that post in? As Arthur Aughey points out:

    “Lateral thinking might suggest that the greatest victory for unionism would be to have Martin McGuinness as the international spokesman for Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom (perhaps there is a lesson to be had here from the experience of a Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast?). Indeed, Lord Bew once wrote shortly after the Belfast Agreement of 1998 that unionists had won but didn’t realise it.

    McGuinness as First Minister could be another example of unionists winning but not knowing it. And since, thanks to Sinn Fein, the position of Deputy First Minister is joint and not subordinate, he would have a unionist minder anyway. Rather than devoting political energies towards the objective of unity would it not be best to start promoting that message?”

    The ‘nationalists’ are busy demonstating that they can live quite happily under British rule, and that renouncing their national rights led to no adverse consequences for them as a non-sovereign nation within the British state whatsoever.

  • slug

    Now the union is not under threat unionists have a fantastic opportunity. Gone are the days of angry unionism – unionism has won so many battles. Unionism must focus on the wider and the bigger questions, now. Socioeconomic and quality of life quesitons.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, an “illogicality of plot” on the ‘nationalist’ side of the equation is the flawed assumption that improving the quality of the constitutional status quo will increase the desire among the general population to radically change that constitutional status quo rather than decrease it. As the quality of British rule increases to where it is indistinguishable (or superior) to the quality of self-rule, why would either non-sovereign nation act to discard that quality in favour of something that was at best equal to what it has or at worst inferior to it? At the moment, 72% of NI’s economy is British state-dependent. Most folks will realise that if they remove the British state from the equation then they remove the lynchpin of their economy. Why will they vote themselves out of employment for no gain in the choice between two ‘harmonised’ states? The former nationalists voted to accept the legitimacy of British rule, and they have no strategy to terminate it whatsoever. In fact, the ‘strategy’ they have is all about normalising British rule.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The same would not be true for the overwhelming majority of the UK electorate, and certainly not for the NI Unionist electorate.

    Didn’t the NI Unionist electorate vote for William McCrea after he stood on a podium with Billy Wright ? Not to mention the countless numbers of unionist representatives who have pointedly refused to condemn terrorist actions including the defiance of the army and the overthrowing of the sovereign government in 1974.

    Criminals and terrorists can be popular. Did you see the funeral for Reg Kray, and the fawning coverage of The Sun which also went on about what a loveable old rogue “Mad” Frankie Fraser was, a man who pulled people’s teeth out with pliers ?

    Further afield the Mayor of Las Vegas never shuts up about his mob connections and even talks about people being “whacked” – comic effect obviously but trivializing the activities of people who he acted as legal counsel for in earlier days. Then again, many people in Las Vegas will tell you about how the town was so much more fun, and the casinos so much better run, whenever the mafia were in charge. The streets were kept clean and there was no petty crime, because their enforcers harshly dealt with anyone who could effect their business.

    I really hate listening to lectures from Unionists about how everyone is decent and has no truck with terrorists except for the people who vote SF. The reality is more subtle and nuanced than that – and unionists are far from lily-white themselves.

  • smellybigoxteronye


    “I really hate listening to lectures from Unionists about how everyone is decent and has no truck with terrorists except for the people who vote SF. ”

    … and I really hate people like yourself giving current-day SF voters the excuse that it is morally ok to ignore SF’s direct role as the major driving factor behind the terror that we went through for 40 years. I’m not saying that Unionists are whiter than white, but the examples you give pale in comparison to voting for the very same body that was *directly* responsible for leading *commanding* and directing of planting bombs on the NI streets for the murder of the innocent. I’m not the type that would give my vote to McCrae, but the frequent example given here on Slugger of him “sharing a platform” with a loyalist terrorist, while indeed deserving condemnation, is hardly the same as voting for the same body that commanded the IRA terrorism itself. You would have just as much reason to condemn McCrea nowadays for “sharing a platform” with the SF godfathers in Stormont. And “defying the army” or supporting the workers’ strike against Sunningdale hardly equates to electorally voting the PIRA command into power.

    Anyway, this is quickly snowballing off topic, so I won’t reply again here. My main point is that it is time to truely move on and away from the sectarian border politics that is espoused by both the DUP, Sinn Fein, and indeed elements of both the UUP and SDLP. SF voters in particular need to understand the detrimental effect that the support for their party has for community relations, and unionist opinion of SF only puts the nationalist dream of a “united Ireland” further and further into the clouds. If Nationalists were really intelligent about wanting a “united Ireland” they would form a completely new Nationalist party, free from all those involved with the troubles and free from the terrorist baggage that SF carries.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    … not to mention how opinion in the south of the major Irish Nationalist party would improve too.

  • slug

    Sure. But London is a great city and the large pond is exciting to be part of.

  • Yellowbird

    “Are you saying that unionists need to rebuild unionism to counter a non-existent threat?”

    No, why “rebuild” a model which is no longer relevant or appropriate. I’m saying that N.Irish political Unionism needs to stand back, take a deep breathe and look to both Scotland and particularly Wales for examples of how pro-Union opinion can function within a ” normal free-exchanging society”.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “I would love to moderate/chair full time to keep the wkrs and fkrs out, but I cannot do that…”

    I presume Granni Trixie was referring to the post by Mark Mc Gregor about a ‘legitimate target’ – not a random post from ‘wkrs and fkrs’ (I am presuming you are not including Mark in that) which was brought to your attention.

    Although of course it is the Editor’s perogative, throwing out comments for straying off topic seems fairly petty by comparison.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “look to both Scotland and particularly Wales for examples of how pro-Union opinion can function within a ” normal free-exchanging society”.”

    The GFA is desgined to allow people in Norn Iron to have a choice of which ‘free-exchanging society’ they wish to lean towards and Nationalists and Unionists have different prerferences. Although I would agree that Unionists can and should learn from elsewhere Unionism’s real difficulties realte to how they deal with the differences between themselves and Scotland and Wales.

  • Drumlin Rock

    “Republicanism as an ideology represents murder, intimidation, and extermination to Unionism”

  • Drumlin Rock

    I guess Mike could get a Co-option to Stormont, maybe McNarry could give him his seat. He would be a strong articulate leader im sure, but 2 or 3 months is rather a short period of time to jump to the top.

  • Drumlin Rock

    We are still part of the Union of GB & NI after 90 years, going against all expectations over the decades, I think it has worked pretty well, despite gross mismanagement on many occasions.

  • Greenflag

    Mr Crumlin ,

    ‘I am a walking contradiction.’

    Well if you are then ‘unionism’ is a comatose i.e non walking contradiction . For it can go neither forward nor back and some of it’s local visionaries are having hallucinations about the term ‘union’ and what it means . The DUP are having no hallucinations -they’re just focused on that block grant .

    As for cutting ties with London ? Do remember which piper it is who pays to keep NI ahead of Albania in the per capita income stakes . Unionists know that they are a very small fish in the larger UK pond . The fact that they would be a larger fish in a smaller Dublin bowl is neither here nor there and their visibility would be raised which might not be a good thing for their political interest, given the nature of the unionist beast and it’s reputation .

    ‘This can only be achieved by a brave and articulate unionist leadership.’

    Well yes but that’s the difficult part . It doesn’t exist and I’m not sure it ever has . Even yer man David Vance the ultra TUV has been restating that mantra for several years now and while I disagree with him on some of his views even I can agree with him on that one .

    I’m still working through his Islam is a pathology and not a religion concept . I’ve been tempted to replace the Islam with NI unionism but the latter is not a religion ? is it ?

  • Greenflag

    Not at all . The USSR existed for over 70 years despite the fact that it sent snowploughs to Kazakhstan and combine harvesters to the Artic Circle and the spare parts for a bicycle puncture had to be ordered 6 months in advance . Never underestimate the power of the Zombie State nor the resilience of human inertia in the midst of chaos . Think Zimbabwe and it’s state controlled economy without a sovereign currency but transacting it’s business in US dollars , South African Rands and Botswana pulas . Think Hait now 200 plus years of independence and freedom and still propping up the bottom of the western hemisphere’s GDP per capita table .

    NI is still hanging in there if only by the skin of a wafer thin pro union majority and financial support from London..

  • Greenflag

    ‘unionism has won so many battles.’

    But lost even more 😉

    As for having a ‘fantastic ‘ opportunity ?

    Remind me again how that fantastic ‘Sunningdale ‘ opportunity worked so well that within a few years ‘unionism ‘ managed to replace the moderate SDLP by SF republicans ?

  • alan56

    Unionism needs to articulate what it stands for. Protecting the union is no longer relevent. GFA and the ‘consent’ principle takes care of that. So what is the pro-active policy? What is the vision? A modern pluarlist society with socio-economic ideas, building relationships within NI , the UK and North/South .Just promoting ‘unionist unity’ without clear policy vision will not excite voters. Simple defensive unionism may have worked in the context of the ‘war’ but now there has to be clear policy ideas. Where are they?

  • braniel unionist

    yeah! plus an aspiration for voluntary coalition along with the imperative of opposition government, now that would be a real ’cause celebre’